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Wearing a face mask, washing your hands regularly, social distancing—we’re all familiar with the recommendations for preventing the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) as set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, as the number of confirmed COVID cases continues to surge in the U.S., hitting one million in November alone, the need for further protective measures has increased.
Some experts recommend using an air purifier as an additional way to keep your home—and your family—safe, especially if your space isn’t well-ventilated. “Since most COVID viruses spread through droplets and/or aerosols, these airborne pathogens can be captured by the air purifier filter,” Dr. Wei-Ning Wang, associate professor of mechanical and nuclear engineering at the Virginia Commonwealth University College of Engineering, says.
But how effective are air purifiers at actually preventing the spread of COVID-19? And if you decide to invest in one, which purifier should you buy amid the pandemic? Below is everything you need to know about air purifiers and coronavirus, according to experts.
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Are air purifiers effective against COVID-19?
How well air purifiers work against COVID-19 remains to be seen. “We want to be clear that at this time, no portable air purifier manufacturer has been able to test against the COVID-19 virus,” David Hill, Dyson Engineer and Design Manager, says. Due to the lack of research, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cautions against relying solely on a purifier to stay safe. However, it can be used in addition to other safety measures like regular sanitation and cleaning for extra protection.
“By itself, air cleaning or filtration is not enough to protect people from exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19,” the agency says. “When used along with other best practices recommended by CDC and others, filtration can be part of a plan to reduce the potential for airborne transmission of COVID-19 indoors.”
How to choose the best air purifier for COVID-19
The most important thing to look for is an air purifier with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, according to both medical experts and the EPA. “These filters are capable of capturing at least 99.97% of particles as small as 0.3 microns,” Dr. Wang explains. “Most airborne pathogens are in a micrometer-size range. This means that a HEPA filter can remove almost all of these allergens.” The EPA also recommends choosing an air purifier that is Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) certified and can remove most airborne particles smaller than 1 mm.
Additionally, be sure to use an air purifier that’s specifically designed for the size of the room where you will be using it. “Air circulation is key. Without projecting the purified air around the room, you may risk only purifying a small bubble around your machine instead of the whole room,” Hill explains, which is a key feature of the Dyson air purifiers. “By projecting the clean air into the room using Dyson’s Air Multiplier technology we ensure even room mixing allowing for the ‘dirty’ air to be pushed towards the machine to be purified.”
The best air purifiers to buy
Our experts at Reviewed have tested some of the most popular air purifiers on the market in our labs. Of all the ones we’ve tried, we found the Winix 5500-2 to be the best. Not only does it have the recommended HEPA filter but said filters are very easy to change and the purifier also has the capacity to filter out 99.97% of pathogens as small as 0.3 microns.
If you’re looking for more of an upgrade, however, we highly recommend the Dyson Pure Hot + Cool. Like the Winix, it has both carbon and HEPA filters and can capture 99.97% of particles as small as 0.3 microns, but it also filters formaldehyde, heats and cools your room, oscillates 350 degrees, and integrates with Alexa and Siri.
If you’re still looking for more options—or are having trouble finding one of the above in stock—you can shop all of our experts’ top-tested air purifiers here.
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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.